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University of Baltimore Law Forum

Abstract

On May 28, 2013, Torrey Johnson5 struggles to raise both his hands, handcuffed and seated shoulder-to-shoulder between two other defendants in the first row of the closed circuit television (“CCTV” or “videoconference”) bail review hearing room within the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center (“Centeral Booking”). There are two more rows of defendants behind Mr. Johnson, all in yellow jumpsuits, being watched by correctional officers. Separated by a three-foot wall, Mr. Johnson’s public defender sits out of sight from the video camera’s field of view, about ten feet away from her client. The judge quickly reads through Mr. Johnson’s rights. A representative from the Pretrial Release Services Program (“Pretrial Release”) makes a recommendation that is broadcasted meekly from the courtroom. As the judge looks down at his desk to take notes, Mr. Johnson looks down and shakes his head. He disagrees with something the Pretrial Services representative said, and starts to speak. No one seems to hear Mr. Johnson's voice in his own bail review hearing.

Mr. Johnson’s experience demonstrates the constitutional violations that many indigent defendants in Baltimore City disproportionately face as Maryland conducts bail review hearings on a television screen, not in person. Speed and convenience are the driving factors behind the state’s decision to hold bail hearings through videoconference systems. Mr. Johnson’s case is an example of the procedural problems raised when CCTV is used in bail review hearings, both in district and circuit courts. 6

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